This past week I found a home for most of my fabric. A friend is making lots of masks and other items healthcare workers can use, and I have good material she can have.
This is actually a big deal for me. One of the first things I started exploring when I began going to Celebrate Recovery and did my first Step Study was a two-part issue I’ve had as long as I can remember.
Saving things I’m not currently using or needing, and procrastinating.
About the time I began digging into these issues five years ago, my mom’s health was declining, and that fall she moved into a nursing home and we had to sell her house.
It became crystal clear to me that I came by both of those faults I was exploring honestly.
I spent several weeks that fall trying to pack up and sort through Mom’s belongings. Both she and Dad had kept records of our church that they were involved in from early on, Dad’s radio shows, and everything else.
Clothes, toys from our childhood, tools, Christmas decorations, furniture, you name it, she kept it all, long after Dad had died.
And fabric. Actually she had made baby quilts for several of the grandkids and shorts and shirts to pack in her Operation Christmas Child boxes, so there were good reasons for some of her cloth. The rest she had accumulated over decades.
That was a stressful time. We were under a deadline hoping to preserve some of the value of Mom’s house by selling quickly, and we had just a few weeks to get it auction ready.
Several nights a week I would go and fill garbage bags to put in the alley, and box after box to take home to my house.
For the last couple of years Mom lived in her house I knew the day would come when we’d have to go through all her stuff. In my mental scenario it would have been after she had died peacefully in her sleep at home, and we would have taken our time and put the house on the market after plenty of discussion to decide how to handle her things.
I’d been through this with my in-laws, and for the most part it wasn’t too difficult.
For a couple of years I had tried to go through some of her things when the kids and I would come visit or take her grocery shopping. I’d carry an interesting box up from the basement and hand her things to look at and decide if it could go in the garbage.
We never got very far. Mom got talking about the memories the items brought back to her. Since she was starting into dementia I felt that was more important at the time than emptying out her basement.
So when the day came to tell Mom we were getting her house ready to sell, she wanted to go home one more time.
We spent time in every room. I asked her to tell me which items of furniture and keepsakes she wanted someone in the family to keep, and we put post-its on them. We had a list of things she hoped we’d want to keep for good, and others she just wanted to be able to see again if she had the desire before she died.
We prayed before we left to get dinner before going back to the nursing home, thanking God for her years in the house and for whoever would come to own it. She prayed for all of her kids.
At the restaurant, her favorite, she forgot that she liked iced tea to drink.
I think that was the day I knew Mom wouldn’t be with us completely any more.
So each night I came home with a van loaded with Mom’s stuff, I felt a weight of responsibility to keep some of her memories.That fall and winter my family room had a double row of boxes stacked as high as the couches running around two walls, and underneath a large, square coffee table. Also under and on top of Mom’s dining room table she had given me a few year’s before.
There I was, with plenty of my own clutter, and Mom’s added in to the mix. And being faced with a need to start digging into why I kept my own things, it was nearly impossible to figure out why Mom had kept all of hers.
That winter and spring I went through box after box, at first trying to organize, and then just trying to minimize the space it took up when I got overwhelmed.
I’m not an organizer by nature.
It was the next fall, after Mom had died in the summer, when I went through things a second time. I cleaned out a large closet in my family room and transferred the boxes into it.
This time I threw more things away, though there is still plenty I should let go. That will come another day.
Because in the past few years I’ve faced a lot about myself and learned much along the way.
I don’t know how I never recognized how much I rely on my senses for my memory. I’m known as having the best memory in the family, which is true. And I’ve learned my memories are sparked by my senses. Like Mom I start looking through a box of my own things and I want to tell someone the stories of times long ago, friends I’ve lost touch with, what my life was like back in the day.
It was no different this past week as I washed up decades of saved fabric, ironed it smooth and folded it neatly to send off to it’s new home.
I was amazed at the memories running through my mind as I straightened and pressed pieces of cloth that I’d used to make clothes for my family.
There were many more large lengths I’d bought because they were so pretty, but I got out of the sewing mood and never used them.
Those were hard to part with.
So I didn’t, entirely.
There were some smaller pieces, leftovers from projects I’d made, that I washed and ironed and folded up for me.
And one bigger one I’d always meant to make dresses out of for my girls and I. As I finished ironing the eight yards of purple flowers I asked Baby Girl to come look and see material I thought was really “me”.
She gave me a great idea. Wouldn’t that be a pretty backing on a quilt?
The smaller pieces I’d been setting aside, I had told her someday I’d like to make myself a quilt and include these pieces of my memories in it. In all the things I’ve made for other people, I haven’t made many things just for me.
It had been many years since I’d looked through so many scraps and lengths of fabric, and the memories are still clear. So I’m okay not keeping it all. I have small bits of many of them, and I have a purpose and a plan for them.
And someday I’ll wake up leisurely and my hand will play over the feel of the stitches and the segments, and as I focus on a random square a memory will surface.
Of the time when I made pajamas for my kids, a vest for my son and a dress for my daughter, or presents for extended family.
And also of the time that came when I was okay with letting most of it go.